Sugarloaf (Christchurch)

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Sugarloaf communications tower
Sugarloaf Christchurch.jpg
The Sugarloaf communications tower viewed from Bowenvale Valley
Highest point
Elevation493.78 m (1,620.0 ft)
Coordinates43°36′12″S 172°38′58″E / 43.603244°S 172.649534°E / -43.603244; 172.649534Coordinates: 43°36′12″S 172°38′58″E / 43.603244°S 172.649534°E / -43.603244; 172.649534
Sugarloaf is located in Christchurch, New Zealand
Location of Sugarloaf in Christchurch, New Zealand
LocationChristchurch, New Zealand
Mountain typeBasalt volcanic rock

The Sugarloaf is a landmark in the Port Hills to the south of the city Christchurch. The Sugarloaf communications tower is an iconic radio and television transmission mast located on top of the hill.


The tower is situated at an elevation of 493.78 m on the top of the Port Hills, near Dyers Pass. This area is officially known as Sugarloaf Scenic Reserve. This reserve land occasionally doubles as a sheep farm and includes a car park lookout point for general public use.

Communications tower[edit]

In 1965 the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation (now known as Television New Zealand) leased a 4.9ha section of the reserve from the Crown on the summit of Sugarloaf Hill and installed the communications tower and control building. With a height of 121 m, the lattice steel structured tower is founded on a 5-metre deep concrete pad underlain by basalt volcanic rock. It is situated approximately 50 m behind the main transmission building, which combined with the tower is visible from most parts of Christchurch city.

Visual appearance[edit]

At a closer glance, the red and white tower includes an array of antennas including parabolic dishes, dipoles and microwave links. The tower has three main service decks for authorised technicians only with access ladders that run vertically along the eastern side. At night the tower is illuminated with three red beacons which span across the mast from top to bottom. On a clear night and viewed from the city you can often see the beacons and some fluorescent lighting coming from a room inside transmission house.

Transmission house[edit]

The tower is located 50 m behind a single storey transmission building which houses multiple transmission gear. The main equipment room is fully air conditioned and known to local technicians as the great transmitter hall. The building is approximately 40 m in width and 20 m in depth. On the roof of this building there are several satellites, small antennae and multiple parabolic dishes for private WiFi networks. There are two main shielded cable runs that go between the transmission house and back to the tower. This building has been unmanned for several years.

Site access[edit]

The entire transmission site is surrounded by a mesh security fence and a continuous hedge mixed with foliage. Access to the tower is highly restricted to authorised personnel only and climbing the tower is strictly prohibited. Vehicle access to the actual site itself is restricted via a locked gate, however there is a car park lookout point located 200m in front of the tower with panoramic views of Canterbury. Access to this reserve is permitted to the general public until approximately 6:00PM. After this time the gate between Summit Road and Service Lane is locked until the following morning.

Technical aspects[edit]

There are six main antennas that transmit TV and FM signals in the 45 MHz to 800 MHz range. The composite total power fed to all of the transmitting antennas is approximately 64 kW while the antenna gain values range from 7.8 to 16.5 dBd. Multiple services operate off the tower including television, radio, emergency response, aviation, cellular and other data signals.

The tower covers much Christchurch and central Canterbury, for example the DVB-T signal reaches as far as Waipara in the north, the foothills of the Southern Alps in the west, and the Rangitata River in the south.[1] However, not all of the central Canterbury region is covered by this tower. The nearby township of Akaroa (and most of the settlements near Akaroa) have limited to non-existent TV reception and variable radio reception. This long term problem could be solved by the construction of a second tower at least 10 km away from Sugarloaf Mountain, but it is unclear if this option has ever been given technical consideration. Likewise, the Christchurch suburbs of Redcliffs and Sumner have limited coverage from Sugarloaf, with radio (and formerly analogue television) provided through a low-power repeater in the suburb of Southshore.

Transmission frequencies[edit]

The following table contains television and radio frequencies currently operating at Sugarloaf:

TV Channel Transmit Channel Transmit Frequency Band ERP (kW)
World TV digital 28 530 MHz UHF 50, horizontal
MediaWorks digital 32 562 MHz UHF 50, horizontal
TVNZ digital 34 578 MHz UHF 50, horizontal
Kordia digital 36 594 MHz UHF 50, horizontal
Maori TV digital 38 610 MHz UHF 50, horizontal
Radio Station Transmit Channel Transmit Frequency Band ERP (kW)
The Edge 88.9 MHz VHF 32, mixed
RNZ Concert 89.7 MHz VHF 80, mixed
Tahu FM 90.5 MHz VHF 16, mixed
ZM 91.3 MHz VHF 80, mixed
More FM 92.1 MHz VHF 80, mixed
The Sound 92.9 MHz VHF 50, slant
The Rock 93.7 MHz VHF 80, mixed
The Breeze 94.5 MHz VHF 32, mixed
Mai FM 95.3 MHz VHF 32, mixed
The Garage 96.1
(New Zealand Broadcasting School)
96.1 MHz VHF 16, mixed
Plains FM 96.9 MHz VHF 5, slant
The Hits 97.7 MHz VHF 80, mixed
Radio Live 99.3 MHz VHF 32, mixed
Newstalk ZB 100.1 MHz VHF 5, mixed
RNZ National 101.7 MHz VHF 16, mixed
Niu FM 104.1 MHz VHF 16, mixed
Radio Hauraki 106.5 MHz VHF 16, mixed

Former analogue television frequencies[edit]

The following frequencies were used until 28 April 2013, when Sugarloaf switched off analogue broadcasts.[2]

TV Channel Transmit Channel Transmit Frequency Band Power (kW)
TV One 3 62.2396 MHz VHF 320
TV3 6 189.2604 MHz VHF 500
TV2 8 203.25 MHz VHF 630
Four 11 224.239575 MHz VHF 250
CTV 44 655.25 MHz UHF 25
Maori Television 46 671.2604 MHz UHF 320
Prime 62 799.25 MHz UHF 320

Case Studies[edit]

An RF emissions report conducted on 9 February 1998 by the National Radiation Laboratory found that maximum exposure levels of 8 μW/cm2 were detected in the car park area, immediately below the Sugar Loaf antenna. This is 4% of the maximum of 200 μW/cm2 specified for public exposure levels in NZS 6609.1:1990. As the distance from the antenna increased, the exposure levels decreased markedly and, in general, were below 2 μW/cm2. The report concluded that the site is operating in accordance with NZS 6609.1:1990.



The tower and building are currently owned and maintained by Kordia, previously known as Broadcast Communications Limited (BCL NZ).


  1. ^ "Likely Coverage of Freeview Aerial (DTT) Service" (PDF). Kordia. March 2008. Retrieved 14 July 2013.
  2. ^ "New Zealand Television Tramsmission Stations in Operation -- South Island" (PDF). Kordia. March 2008. Retrieved 16 July 2013.

External links[edit]